Fausset's Bible Dictionary


Daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, married Jehoshaphat's son Jehoram, king of Judah. It was a union (compare 1Co_15:33; 1Co_6:14-18) fatal to the cause of piety in Judah, a cause which the godly Jehoshaphat had so much at heart. She bore a hideous likeness to Jezebel her mother, as the history with such unstudied truthfulness brings out. By her influence Jehoram was led to walk in the way of the kings of Israel, like as did the house of Ahab (2Ch_21:6). Baal worship through her was introduced into Judah, as it had been through her mother into Israel. Worldly policy, the hope of reuniting Israel to Judah, and concession to his son, whose reckless violence was afterward seen in the murder of his own brothers (2Ch_21:3-4), infatuated Jehoshaphat to sanction the union. The same bloodthirstiness, lust of dominion over husband and over the state, and unscrupulous wickedness in killing all that stood in the way of ambition, appear in the daughter as in the mother.

When her son Ahaziah was slain by Jehu, along with the brethren of Ahaziah and their sons (42 men), she arose and destroyed all the seed royal of the house of Judah (2Ch_22:10). As queenmother she was determined to keep the regal power which she exercised during Ahaziah's absence in Jezreel (2Ki_9:16). Ahaziah's youngest son Jonah alone escaped her murderous hand, secreted by Jehosheba, his aunt, daughter of Jehoram (probably not by Athaliah, but another wife) and wife of the priest Jehoiada (2Ch_22:11-12). For six years he was hid, but in the seventh year Jehoiada took into covenant with him for restoring the rightful king "the captains of hundreds," two Azariahs, Ishmael, Maaseiah, and Elishaphat; they next enlisted the cooperation of the Levites, gathered out of Judah, and the chief fathers of Israel who came to Jerusalem. Then they made a covenant with the king in the temple.

A third part of the soldiers of the guard usually guarded the palace, while two thirds restrained the crowds on the sabbath by guarding the gate Sur (1Ki_11:6), or "the gate of the foundation" (2Ch_23:5), and the gate "behind the guard," the N. and S. entrances to the temple. The two thirds in the temple were to guard the king with David's spears and shields, that the restoration of his descendant might be connected with his name. Any who should approach beyond the fixed limits were to be killed. Joash was duly anointed, crowned, and received the testimony or law, the statute book of his reign (Deu_17:18-20).

Athaliah, roused by the acclamations of the people, hastened to the temple, and there saw the king "by a pillar" or "upon" it, i.e. on a throne raised upon it (for "pillar" Gesenius translates "stage" or "scaffold," such as in 2Ch_6:18). In vain she (who herself was the embodiment, of treason) cried "Treason!" She was hurried out, and slain at the entering of the horse gate by the king's house. Mattan, Baal's priest, was the only other person slain. Her usurpation lasted 883-877 B.C. As she loved blood, blood was her own end; having lived as her mother, as her mother she died, slain at her own walls amidst the hoofs of the horses (compare Rev_16:5-6).


Taken from: Fausset's Bible Dictionary by Andrew Robert Fausset (1821-1910)